Community Archaeology Forum cba logo
Community Archaeology cba logo
The CBA's Community Archaeology Resource

Community Archaeology in South West England

21st February 2009, University of Exeter


10.00 – 17.00

For more information, and for free registration, please contact:

Faye Simpson
University of Exeter
Department of Archaeology
Laver Building
North Park Road



The South West of England has a plethora of innovative community archaeology projects working within the region to provide archaeological outreach to local communities. These archaeological outreach and education projects are varied in both their approaches and organisation. They range from ‘grass roots’ projects initiated and organised by interested amateurs, individuals and local societies, to ‘top down approaches’ by commercial archaeology firms and universities. Furthermore, they include a range of hands on activities such as standing building surveys, historical research, field-walking, oral history projects, excavations and finds processing, to name just a few.

As hosts, the Heritage Lottery Fund and University of Exeter’s Exploring Archaeology Project (XArch), provides the means in which the conference can act as a forum to discuss the variety of community initiatives in the South West of England, and assess how they work in practice. It will also open up communication between these different individuals, groups and organisations as to where the future lies for community archaeology in this region, and investigate the possibility of partnerships between these groups and projects.

MORNING SESSION: Community Archaeology: The Wider Debate

Chair: Prof Mick Aston

Supporting community archaeology across the UK
Mike Heyworth (CBA)

A key aim of the Council for British Archaeology is to increase and diversify participation in archaeology across the UK, in line with its strapline of 'Archaeology for all'. This presentation will describe CBA's work over the last five years, starting with a key study on 'Participating in the past', published in 2003. Since then, the CBA has been able to provide support and encouragement for the growth of community archaeology across the UK, for example by giving grants through our Challenge Funding scheme. The first Marsh Archaeology Awards presented by CBA in 2008 with support from the Marsh Christian Trust were given to showcase the best of community archaeology in recent years. A major new initiative is about to be launched by the CBA, funded by the Headley Trust, to give further practical support for community archaeology across the UK, partly through a further development of the CBA's award-winning online Community Archaeology Forum (

Myths and Monsters; challenging misconceptions within the profession and without
Matthew Blewett (University of Exeter)

Community Archaeology is often seen as being of relatively little value for archaeological research. However, this tends to ignore the important contribution that can be made by public archaeology groups if they are encouraged to have research aims and adopt basic standards of recording, surveying, and to publish the results of their investigations. Community archaeology is also an ideal opportunity to engage and inform people who may be more accustomed to experiencing archaeology through the media, whether through documentary or, as more recently, archaeology-based "drama". Since fewer institutions are teaching Archaeology at A level, and it is no longer part of the G.C.S.E. syllabus, public archaeology can be the best way to engage younger students with the profession and demonstrate its learning potential. I have been fortunate enough to participate in different types of archaeology; amateur, academic research, commercial, experimental and public archaeology. This paper aims to demonstrate that the contribution of public archaeology can be a positive one for the profession as a whole.

Community Involvement – Who Benefits?
Stephen Hobbs ( )
The need by Higher Education Institutions for funding of research has resulted in a variety of public or Lottery financed initiatives that often require the involvement of community groups. Research in history and in archaeology often falls into this category.
Do the perceived ideals of academia sit well with community groups?
Are these expectations able to be met by either group, or is this a move that results in discontent?
Taking a brief look at the levels of community involvement, the expectations and how, when approached with care and clear intentions, may show how the experience can prove beneficial to all parties. The greater question should be: once bridges are crossed, how does the process benefit the community, enabling the institutions to provide original research, whilst meeting the requirements of the funding bodies?

The Role of Excavation in Community Archaeology in the Southwest: The Experiences of the ‘Professional’
Samuel Walls (University of Exeter)

Excavation has long been the main focus of most community archaeology projects, yet in many this results in the portrayal of archaeology as being restricted to a limited range of skills and techniques, which are largely based in the field. Excavation also has the problems of being expensive, complicated to arrange, normally of short duration, and attracting a very narrow spectrum of people from communities. Sustaining interest within communities and longer-term outputs from these excavations are not always followed through. In many projects these problems with community excavations should neither detract from their academic value, nor their importance in establishing, generating and sustaining archaeological and historical interests within both individuals and communities.
This paper presents my experiences of community archaeology having worked on a large number of excavations in the southwest, on a variety of different projects. These have had a range of aims, amounts of participation, follow-ups and outputs, yet several common themes emerge especially concerning the value and importance the volunteers and communities have had in making the excavations a success. Through discussing these experiences I aim to emphasise the potential and value of excavation work in community archaeology projects in the southwest, as well as outlining some of the pitfalls.

Fabulous Finds and Marvelous Mud! Involving the community in the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Devon.
Danielle Wootton (Portable Antiquities Scheme)

Exploring Archaeology Project (XArch): a community focused initiative
Penny Cunningham (XArch)
The Exploring Archaeology Project (XArch) is a community archaeology project funded for three years (2006-2009) by the Heritage Lottery Fund and University of Exeter, UK. In contrast to most community archaeology projects, the XArch project does not take a site-specific approach nor does it have a specific research agenda. The main aims of the project is to empower and support community groups who wish to gain a greater understanding of their own backyard archaeology and to act as a catalyst to encourage participation and awareness in areas where interest in archaeology is currently lacking or difficult to access.

Being based in a largely rural county, the XArch Project has a number of challenges when trying to engage members of the public from different social-economic backgrounds. This paper sets out the methodologies used to engage members of the public from a wide variety of social-economic backgrounds in archaeological based activities. In addition, a series of educational workshops linked to the National Curriculum, offered freely to schools, have proven to be a successful method of communicating archaeology to children. We learn that not only can we increase the publics understanding of archaeology but also the educational and social benefits of teaching archaeological methods to a variety of communities.

AFTERNOON SESSION: Community Archaeology a Local Perspective

Chair: Barry Lane (Chairman, CBA South West and the Westbury
Society organiser)

Mount Folly Enclosures Project: community archaeology for real
Eileen Wilkes (Bournemouth University), Jill Cobley and Amanda Eversett
(Mount Folly Enclosures Project)

The Mount Folly Enclosures Project examines a group of articulated enclosures on the south Devon coast that have been dated to the Late Iron Age – Roman periods. Two of the enclosures were first identified in 1989 through the county’s Aerial Reconnaissance Programme. Investigation is by excavation, environmental sampling and geophysical survey that, in 2007, identified a third enclosure. The project started in 2003 with a small scale excavation at the site. It was intended that the two-week excavation would be the full extent of work at Mount Folly. However, the excellence of the archaeology plus the enthusiasm of the volunteer participants ensured that the project continued for the next five years, and work is still ongoing at the site.

Although conceived as small in scale, the project quickly grew and has now benefited from 2224 volunteer days on site with a further 250+ days given to post-excavation work. Geophysical survey has so far covered c. 1.5 ha. All participants, with the exception of the Project Director, are volunteers from various archaeological societies, interested locals and those from further afield. They range in age from 14 to those in their 80s.

The results of the project are informing research of regional, national and, with regard to ceramics, international scale. The volunteers have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the project and do so with enthusiasm and to rigorously monitored standards. The project benefits greatly from the support and guidance of Devon Historic Environment Service, Devon Archaeological Society and local and national specialists who give generously of their time.

Our presentation will outline the origins and development of the project and what it means to be an archaeological volunteer on one of the largest community archaeology projects in the region.

Archaeology for All at Upper Row Farm – a BACAS HLF Project
Ceri Lambdin (Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society)

The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society (BACAS) received a £49,800 grant from the HLF in November 2007. The five objectives of our project are simple: to provide access to archaeology for local groups; to proactively visit school, colleges and groups and inform and educate them about our local heritage and the historic environment; provide ‘hands-on’ and training activities for schools and groups; produce and publish reports and educational literature; and make everyone aware of and understand their local heritage.

The grant has enabled BACAS to fund an Educational Officer and to purchase new geophysical equipment. BACAS is now able to supply a laptop and digital projector which many local groups are not able to provide for visiting speakers.

There have been two successful open days at Upper Row Farm; for National Archaeology Week in July and an Excavation Open Day in September to show the local community the results of the Society’s six week training dig.

There have been several visits to local schools and many more are now planned following a publicity campaign. Return visits to the farm for tours of the villa site and archaeological activities are now competing with the Roman Baths on the school curriculum!

Seeking Roman Calne
Jim Gunter (WANHS Archaeology Field Group)

In Wiltshire the great monuments of prehistory – Avebury, Stonehenge, Silbury Hill – have tended to overshadow all other archaeology here. Yet there is so much more. Roman roads criss-cross the county and traces of Romano-British villas, shrines, towns and farmsteads cover downland and plain.

Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Archaeology Field Group (WANHS AFG) is engaged in a project 'Seeking Roman Calne' (working title 'Caluna') to find evidence of a Roman presence where this modern town and its surrounding villages now stand.

A major aim of 'Caluna' is to engender local interest and pride in Calne's past and by extension in its present and future. All 11 schools in Calne and Calne Without have been invited to take part. Pupils are encouraged to take finds bags for items of interest from gardens, fields and parks. Finds days are scheduled for November and December at the Calne Heritage Centre.

Archaeological questions posed relate to land use in the 1st to 4th centuries; main and small road routes in the area; evidence of Roman adoption of local gods; and the changing roles of farm buildings. Reports on the popular and academic outcomes are intrinsic to the project.

Geevor Tin Mine- In the care of the Community?
Claire Ross (Geevor Tin Mine)

Until recently the significance of community involvement in archaeology and the interpretation of the past had been undervalued and underestimated. There has been a considerable change in attitudes, as it can now be shown that working with communities encourages new and different questions to be asked, which provides fresh insights into the history and archaeology of an area.

At Geevor the local community plays a unique, if not critical, part in the development of the museum. Since 2001, Geevor Tin Mine in Cornwall has been managed by Pendeen Community Heritage, a village based registered charity. The paper explores the way in which the local community has driven and shaped the development of the UK’s largest mining museum. This encompasses the involvement of local people in creating exhibitions, project work to conserve the significant site archive, an volunteer led Oral History Project, and community involvement in the governance of the charity. The creation of a new museum of hard rock mining during 2008 – 9 is the focal point of the paper, as it brings a major opportunity for local knowledge of the tin mining industry to be showcased.

‘The Devon Archaeological Society and support for community archaeology’.
Henrietta Quinnell (Devon Archaeology Society)
Abstract TBC


Location: University of Exeter
Department of Archaeology
Laver Building

9.30 – 10.00 REGISTRATION

MORNING SESSION: Community Archaeology: A wider debate

10.00 – 10.10 Prof Mick Aston
10.10 – 10.30 Mike Heyworth: Supporting Community Archaeology Across the UK
10.30 – 10.40 Matthew Blewett: Myths and Monsters; challenging misconceptions
within the profession and without.
10.40 - 11.10 Stephen Hobbs: Community Involvement – Who Benefits
11.30 - 11.50 Samuel Walls: The Role of Excavation in Community Archaeology in
the Southwest: The Experiences of the Professional.
11.50 - 12.10 Danielle Wootton: Fabulous Finds and Marvellous Mud! Involving the
Community in the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Devon
12.10 – 12.30 Penny Cunningham: Exploring Archaeology Project (Xarch): a
community focused initiative.
12.30 - 12.50 DISCUSSION

12.50 – 14.00 LUNCH

AFTERNOON SESSION: Community Archaeology: A Local Perspective

14.00 – 14.10 Barry Lane
14.10 – 14.30 Eileen Wilkes: Mount Folly Enclosures Project: community
archaeology for real
14.30 – 14.50 Ceri Lambdin: Archaeology for All at Upper Row Farr – A BACAS
HLF Project
14.50 – 15.10: Jim Gunter: Seeking Roman Calne
15.30 – 15.50: Claire Ross: Geevor Tin Mine – In the care of the community
15.50 – 16.10: Henrietta Quinnell: The Devon Archaeology Society and Support for
Community Archaeology

16.10- 16.40: DISCUSSION


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